COMMENTARY | As gas prices rise, the pain at the pump gets worse. Seeing the cost of a tank of gas can become so scary that it joins public speaking and huge syringes on the list of things that terrify. The enormous gasoline expense Americans must deal with has become a subject of political debate. The proposals from both political parties highlight the differences between their outlooks.
The right-wing approach is to see it as a supply-and-demand issue. In economic terms its idea is to bring more oil, and therefore gasoline, to the market, increasing supply and driving down prices. The New York Times describes this concept, with Rick Santorum pushing for it, even within the last few weeks.
There's one problem with that approach. It doesn't work.
Increased drilling might increase supply, but oil companies can hold back enormous reserves. Increasing the amount of available oil does not miraculously make new gas station chains appear, driving competition and lowering prices. In other words, more drilling helps oil companies a lot, but consumers get less benefit from it than they should.
The left-wing approach is to increase the efficiency of machines that use fossil fuels and to enact legislation that protects consumers against price gouging. Guess what the problem is there? It doesn't work. It fails because the right wing and the oil companies fight against it.
Barack Obama outlined a plan to control artificial manipulation of oil prices, according to CNN. The right wing attacked the plan, blaming Obama for not endorsing more drilling and expensive pipelines.
Oil companies are mainly for-profit enterprises, so it is not surprising they will fight to increase profit and battle against anything that might reduce it. With their enormous wealth they can donate heavily to politicians who support their endeavors. They can also intentionally slow production and drive up prices to make a sitting president look bad.
The left-wing approach is much more focused on consumer benefit, and as a consumer, I am more inclined to support it than any plan the right wing currently offers.